Kansas City Blues (1924-1929)
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Kansas City Blues
Complete Recorded Works 1924 – 1929
Featuring the recordings of:
Lottie Beaman (Kimbrough), vocal; accompanied by the Pruitt Twins: probably Milas Pruitt, banjo; Miles Pruitt, guitar. Lottie Beaman (Kimbrough); accompanied by Jimmy Blythe, piano; probably Papa Charlie Jackson, banjo on 6. Lena Kimbrough, vocal; accompanied by Paul Banks’ Kansas City Trio: Simon Hoe, clarinet; Clifton Banks, alto sax; Paul Banks, piano; with Sylvester Kimbrough, kazoo. Lena and Sylvester Kimbrough, vocal duet; accompanied by Paul Banks’ Kansas City Trio: Simon Hoe, clarinet; Clifton Banks, alto sax; Paul Banks, piano. Lottie Kimbrough and Winston Holmes: Lottie Kimbrough, vocal on 10; or vocal duet with Winston Holmes, who also provides bird effects on 9 / train-whistle on 10 / speech on 9; accompanied by unknown, cornet on 13; unknown, piano on 13; probably Miles Pruitt, guitar on 9, 10,11,12 Winston Holmes And Charlie Turner: Winston Holmes, vocal on 16, 17, 18 / speech on 14, 15, 19 / whistling on 16, 17; possibly Milas Pruitt, guitar on 17, 18; Charlie Turner, vocal on 15, 17, 18 / speech on 14, 15 / harmonica on 17,18 / guitar. Lottie Beaman (Kimbrough), vocal; accompanied by Miles Pruitt, guitar. Sylvester Kimbrough, vocal; accompanied by Paul Banks, piano.
Genres: Blues; Country Blues, Kansas Blues, Female Blues, Country Blues Guitar, 12-string Guitar, Bottleneck-slide Guitar, Jazz, Blues Piano,
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. In the Twenties and Thirties they called it “Tom’s Town”; Kansas City was “wide open” under the regime of Tom Pendergast. There were over three hundred nightspots in the city, not to mention the saloons and bars that were dotted throughout the neighbourhoods, both black and white. Down in the West Bottoms was rough; even today it’s far from being a salubrious area. Here Big Joe Turner got his start and Julia Lee got hers. But the first of the big-voiced singers from the Bottoms was Lottie Kimbrough, a large woman with broad features which earned her the nickname of “the Kansas City Butter-Ball”. Perhaps it was her lack of glamour that made Winston Holmes use her sister Estella (who wasn’t a singer) on one of “Lena’s” publicity photographs. Around 1922 she married William Beaman and her Paramount records were issued under her married name. Accompanying Lottie Beaman on her first titles were the “Pruett” Twins, as Paramount labelled them: Miles and Milas Pruitt. Regular Man Blues, though not the first of her titles to be released, was her first on the session. She came on strongly with a warm voice and used the original verse or two to give some sparkle to the lyrics:Tell me, what made Adam fall? (twice) Trouble started in the garden; Eve heard the serpent call.
Honey Blues was on the popular “leaving you” theme which peppered every singer’s repertoire at the time. Unfortunately, on Red River Blues Miles Pruitt slipped a string and a sour note is evident in the accompaniment. “Blues is a Jonah” sang Lottie. Her next session was around October the same year. This time she had a better accompanist: the dependable house pianist Jimmy Blythe, who played solid piano on each title. Sugar Daddy had unusually good lyrics with the singer quoting a piece of folk humour, “you can catch a bird if you sprinkle salt on his tail” and declaring “I was lucky at policy, all my numbers fall”. Low Down Painful Blues was more in the vein of “classic blues” with introduction followed by 12-bar verses. A couple of years later, Lottie, now labelled as Lena Kimbrough, was on a coupling with the Paul Banks’ Kansas City Trio. Her brother played kazoo on the bloody item City of the Dead. The final title is a surprise, being none other than the old English ballad Our Goodman. Soon after she met up with Winston Holmes, still something of an enigma, but an active hustler on the Kansas City scene. Probably born about 1898, he was slender, good looking and restless. A born promoter without the capital to make the really big time, he started a record label, Merritt, and persisted with Lottie Kimbrough (or, as he preferred.to call her on record, Lena), including one legendary session with Paul Banks’ Kansas City Trio. A couple of years later, he secured a session with Gennett. Lottie and her regular guitarist, Milas Pruitt were strong enough to be a match for Winston Holmes‘s energetic vocal effects: bird calls, train whistles and occasional yodeling. Her imagery was often original; on Rolling Log she used a log jam on a river bank to convey her state of mind. Obviously a favourite theme, she made it again some months later, also remaking Going Away Blues. The tune of the latter was the one usually associated with Tricks Ain’t Walking No More. This was her last recording session and she doubtless settled down to raise her child. Winston Holmes meanwhile, got a session lined up with Paramount, for which he introduced his former companion Charlie Turner, and probably also included Miles Pruitt. He was reported as having come from St. Louis where he owned a record store. The session was a fascinating one, with its glimpses of medicine show entertainment. The Death of Holmes’ Mule was a punning title, for the mule was obviously “White mule”, or pure alcohol. The “service” for the mule was an outrageous parody, which not only corrupted lines from various hymns but also allowed Charlie Turner to do imitations of a preacher, with a slide on his twelve-string guitar playing. Charlie Turner’s superb musicianship is particularly evident on The Kansas City Call and Kansas City Dog Walk: both twelve-string and harmonica were played with great skill while on the former Winston Holmes indulged in his vocal pyrotechnics. Their remaining issued title, “Skinner”, was a piece of folk hokum, with mildly suggestive or fatuous lyrics.Paul Oliver Copyright 1993: Document Records